Shibboleth answers the question: "Is reincarnation possible?"

Hidden within man's religions, hidden within his poetry, his science and his philosophies, hidden within the very marrow of his bones is a deep and abiding fear of death. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of reincarnation, a concept founded upon a deliberate denial of facts and a fanciful view of scientific, mathematical and statistical principles, a concept designed for the sole purpose of escaping death, or, failing that, of at least giving death a veneer of hope. Unfortunately, no matter how you dress a hippopotamus, even if you drape it in royal purple, it will remain a hippopotamus and it is the same with death. Death is a principle that has its voice in practically every scientific notion known to mankind, whether it be the disruption and dispersal of the structure of an atom in a nuclear reaction or the heat-death of the universe at the end of time, from the microcosm to the macrocosm everything dies. And it's good that things die, it makes room for more forms, maybe different forms, maybe even better forms and that, by the way, is precisely the principle that fuels evolution, another scientific theory that acknowledges death, that shows death its proper respect. As to reincarnation, where and how does it fit into any kind of rational framework? Right out the gate it makes absurd claims about itself, claims that obliterate any attempt to take it seriously. Like this one: The Soul (the specious peg upon which reincarnation attempts to hang it's hat) is eternal and returns over-and-over-again or at least as many times as it takes to reach some lofty spiritual goal, Nirvana or perfection or resolution, whatever you choose to call it. This implies that souls have been working their way through this maze of existence for at least the last several million years and this also suggests that some of those souls must be at or near completion or, worst case, at least showing some improvement. But where is the evidence? Are we improving as a species? Are we more spiritual, are we more moral? And if not, why not? Even rats can learn to navigate a maze, even rats show improvement under the schoolmaster of repetition. The human race as a whole should be getting better, wiser, more responsible, more...spiritual. And shouldn't there also be those who excel, those who are fortunate enough or capable enough to move swiftly toward Nirvana; more swiftly, perhaps, than you and I ? Shouldn't we be fairly tripping over Holy-men, shouldn't we daily have to walk around them on the sidewalk as they stand transfixed by the glories of their approaching perfection? My God: Temples, churches and sacred groves should be swarming with saints and dervishes while battlefields and armies should be falling slowly but inexorably into disuse. I don't see things playing out that way though, do you? At bottom, belief-systems that hold reincarnation as a core concept tend toward spiritual laziness and, as a consequence, spiritual and personal inaction. Why strive, why persevere, why invest in this life when there is an unlimited, or at least, a very large store of lives in your existential bank account? Thus life is diminished and the urgent need to live life in a meaningful fashion TODAY is lost. Men lay back and surrender to a non-existent process that promises Heaven but produces indolence, stagnation and, finally, class struggles that expand into the realm of the spirit and result in India's caste-system and the shallow, neo-liberal posturings of today's New-Age Movements. Most children, when faced with death for the first time, get it. They see the shine gone out of the eyes; they see the rigid mask of death as it descends and claims all the smiles, all the grimaces, all the curled lips and spittle of life and transforms them into it's own substance. Children are close enough to the moment they began life to recognize the need for the end of it and they only begin to fear death when they see how fearful we are of death. Left to themselves our children might be capable of a lively two-step with death, a waltz, a whirling, joyful dance that ends with a deep kiss and a warm embrace, an embrace that lasts forever. Instead we fill their heads with fear and send them stumbling into the world to cower in the face of reality, to cower before natural processes, to invent fairy-tales that will not delay them even one hour from their fate. I'm not a theist but I do admire the fact that theists generally recognize death for what it is, they recognize its finality. True, they sometimes envision a Heaven as a sort of final destination but the trip of life itself, to them, ends as it should and in that way they agree with objective reality. The urgency of life is thus salvaged by the theist and death is, if not welcomed, at least accepted. Atheism also accepts death and accepts it in a form more pure, even, than the theist and for that I admire them as well. But the believer in reincarnation trades life's urgency for procrastination in its meanest form and the bittersweet, undeniable fact of death he fashions into a myth that will forever separate him from life and it's fleeting beauty.

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